And you answered questions starting with the main questions we knew people were going to ask. So I – I think Christian people need to get to the point where instead of seeing the sovereignty of God as some kind of intrusion or – or some kind of impossible thing to explain, they need to see the sovereignty of God as the most encouraging, hopeful, blessed of all realities that you’re never – you’re never able to drift from His control, which is driving you to the purpose. To him be glory forever. We chose those conversations based on questions we hear from listeners and questions that, frankly, we grapple with sometimes ourselves. I mean, it was pretty direct when He drowned the whole world. The Bible has lots of … Register. PHIL: Basically declares His own sovereignty. And I said, you know, this – this sort of mass movement over here, what – what brought you here? JOHN: I don’t know that there’s any way for me to come to 100 percent comfortable position because there’s always this nagging reality in – in your mind that there are people who have literally been fitted into a divine purpose that ends up in damnation. . What you have to understand is that that does not honor God. Yes, He did. JOHN: So they’re trying to divest God of a responsibility that He’s perfectly willing to accept. Absolutely. We’re grateful for your faithfulness and your wisdom and thanks for sharing this time with us. And again, we’re back to the folks who came to the church and said, “We can’t live under the sovereignty of Satan.”. PHIL: Now see, immediately we run headlong into the problem of evil. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. Deborah Fagan Schultz. You know, I don’t need to live a certain kind of holy life. JOHN: Trying to get a handle on it, yeah. JOHN: I think it is everywhere in Scripture. Third, in relation to civic power and authority, there is the question of God’s sovereignty in the determination of rulers and government. I can live joyfully, you know, in a – in a world, whatever the issues are in that world, knowing that a good God for His own glory is managing every single thing that’s going on. That is not what God desires the person to do, but it will not in any sense overpower the final purpose of God and He will – He will work these things into His intention. PHIL: The other major difficulty that people have with the sovereignty of God in salvation is the question of evangelism. You are welcome Nick. Like – like other things, we can know that that’s what the Bible says but not fully comprehend how that works out or – or why things are the way they are, if that is in fact true. Wow, God put him in. JOHN: He is sovereign, and it is His plan that He would be glorified in judgment as He would be glorified in salvation. The heart of a king is in the hand of the Lord, He turns it however He wants. Thanks for your time, John, and thanks for, as you always do, shedding biblical light on difficult questions like this for us. God has – so you grew up, nice Christian boy in a nice Christian family thinking that everything was kind of flying around in a random world and God somehow intervened here and there and saved a few people to take them to heaven. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." 3) When my kids got older, they would sometimes question me persistently about a decision that I have made. It’s non-existent. You go back to the fact that you rejected. 6 thoughts on “ Hard Questions: God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility ” Nick. God’s sovereignty has nothing to do with causing violence, pain, and suffering in the world. Few are interested in whether we have the free will to choose salad or steak for our dinner tonight. And then, how are they going to call on Him whom they have not heard? Second, there is the question of ethics. JOHN: Well sure. The Father, in His sovereignty, places the limitations upon the attack. Question: "Is God sovereign or do we have a free will?" The will to create was entirely God’s. This article is also available and sold as a booklet. So I love the fact that that tension is there, that God holds the rejecting sinner, the unbelieving sinner fully responsible for his rejection. He loves me; He loves me not.” In response, some people have insisted that God has the right to do whatever He pleases and it is none of our business to find fault with Him—a point that Paul himself anticipates (Rom. The inteded audience was parochial or church goers. But I think the most typical wrong response to the doctrine of sovereign – or the sovereignty of God in salvation is indifference. That was – that was a very direct, sovereign act. JOHN: I really see You as sovereign and I repent in dust and ashes. I mean, the end is already determined. As a believer, I’m free to obey or disobey, right? And I – I’ve said this through the years in my teaching that when the Lord Jesus came into the world, He could have done all kinds of things to demonstrate His deity. . The Next 500 Years: 2017 National Conference, Show Me Your Glory: Understanding the Majestic Splendor of God, La Biblia de Estudio de La Reforma, Spanish Edition, Naming Ligonier the Beneficiary of a Bank or Investment Account, Gifts That Provide Income and Tax Benefits. PHIL: Yeah, you could say that Joseph lived this conversation, as well. PHIL: And in the punishment of evil doers, His justice is put on display. You have to ask the question; how does it affect God? The assertion of divine sovereignty is not without further questions that should be addressed. The – the assumption is the fatalism takes over and what is going to be is going to be and you forget that within the purpose of God to accomplish His saving end, there are freedoms, right? And I think the definitive statement there is, “I am God and there is no other.”. Is God in control? We’ve talked about the doctrine of election, and most recently the problem of apostasy. Characteristics such as truthfulness, goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, and love define God’s every action. GDPR is the new European privacy regulation, which will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK and the equivalent legislation across the EU Member States. How will they hear without a preacher? There are dangers, aren’t there with this doctrine? I went to the funeral and I asked somebody, “What – what happened? ANSWER: "Sovereignty is God's control over His creation, dealing with His governance over it: Sovereignty is God's rule over all reality." These are common questions and they all share the same fallacy, right? And, by knowing Him, we can choose to trust Him with our lives. You know, I don’t – I don’t need to manifest righteousness to show a transformed life because God’s going to save who He’s going to save. Even though Nero instituted the harshest kind of persecution, Paul is still saying that God ordained him. I can honestly tell you, I don’t think I ever heard the answer. John, we’ve done a number of these studio interviews over the years, going back, I think – I think the first one we ever did was on September 11, 2001. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is sometimes abused by well-meaning believers who affirm the doctrine but abuse it in different ways. It says, “The heart of man plans his way –. While the sovereignty of God is infinite, the use of His power is defined by His other attributes. He could have said “house” and there could have been a house. Everyone ends up with the question of God’s sovereignty and the question of evil; denying calvinism does not get you out of the dilemma. So that reaffirms the Great Commission. Absolutely. In fact, they would go so far as to say no one knows what’s going to happen in the future because nothing has happened in the future and therefore God can’t know what hasn’t happened because it hasn’t happened. Satan killed your pastor to – to cancel out a divine plan? .He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). And yet, Scripture is explicit, right? He never makes a comment about the government, other than to pay your taxes. And this is the thing –. All of us have encountered the disastrous results of doing our own thing. I have a difficult time comprehending that. The first step in understanding the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human will is to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive, and Scripture makes this absolutely clear. In fact, I would argue that denying calvinism takes away sovereignty from God and instead makes him dependent upon man’s actions. If He does, then why didn't He? If one attribute were disproportionate or over-emphasized, chaos would result on a universal level. If God is ordained, who is going to be saved? As King of all creation, God exercises His sovereignty throughout the world. Typical teaching on the sovereignty of God puts Jesus in the driver’s seat with us as passengers. © 2021 Grace to You. JOHN: He declared His sovereignty to Job and said, “You’re not in charge. Was it Spurgeon who said – somebody asked him the same question, “Why do you evangelize all the time if people are elect?” He said, “Well if you’ll help me pull up their shirt so I can see if they have an “E” stamped on their back, you know, that would help.” Since we don’t know who – I actually had a prominent well-known preacher tell me one of his children was not elect, who, by the way, has since come to confess Christ. They’ve been at this now two years plus, they’re months from the cross and the true believers are a small little group. God has raised up civil governments to be systems of equity and good and peace, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them who do well (Rom. Each assertion is a variant of divine sovereignty. PHIL: And then the New Testament parallel to that verse we started with in Isaiah would be Ephesians 1:11 which says, “God works all things after the counsel of His own will.”. JOHN: Well that’s a pretty – pretty limited view of God to think that and that sort of maybe overestimates your own importance? Mysteries are forced upon us by the facts of God’s Word; we are not inventing them ourselves. So by God’s definition, this was the determined righteous thing for Him to do. So whatever happens is what He purposed to happen, right? It is inescapable, everywhere in Scripture God is designated clearly and revealed to be sovereign. 16:33). THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. JOHN: We know why it happened because Satan came to God and God – and said, “Yeah, Job only serves You because You bless him.” And He said, “I’ll prove different.” God was proving a point to Satan, we know that, Job never knew that. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). If I’m disobedient, I can’t say, “Well, it doesn’t matter, it wasn’t supposed to be me. God has revealed these attributes about Himself so we can know who He is. Log In Answer: Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. And there – we’ve sort of talked around these things already. Are there realms in the created universe where God does not govern? Since we don’t know who they are, we are called to fulfill the Great Commission and to proclaim the gospel to every creature. It’s a subject that raises lots of questions and we want to ask you some of those questions today and get your help in finding biblical answers. The second thing is that even the elect can’t be saved apart from the proclamation of the gospel because faith comes by hearing. PHIL: Kind of hard to get around that one. If God knows what I’m going to say before I say it, His knowledge, rather than limiting my prayer, enhances the beauty of my praise. The mission, passion and purpose of Ligonier Ministries is to proclaim the holiness of God Category: Articles. So if not everybody is going to be saved, then it was in the purpose of God that not everybody was going to be saved. Characteristics such as truthfulness, goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, and love define God’s every action. God isn’t causing me to sin just because He’s sovereign? First, there is the question of evangelism. JOHN: No. But you can pick your poison. Reformed theology, on the other hand, insists that no event happens that is a surprise to God. And He has a right to put Himself on full display in order that He might be forever glorified for the God that He is. People throw around the idea, “Well, God is sovereign,” or “Is God Sovereign?” And they grapple for an answer to that. These same kinds of testimonies are found in the Bible, perhaps none more profound than the prophet Isaiah’s account of his life-changing encounter with the sovereign Lord. Under the sovereignty of God’s authority, no man or thing is exempt from the exertion of His authority, nor can they alter the principles by which His authority is exerted. He cannot figure out a reason. The promise itself is a testimony to God’s sovereignty. Dr. Sproul considers these questions in this message as he teaches us about the relationship between human freedom and "God's Sovereignty." JOHN: Right, He – but first of all, He allowed it. 91:1). Very near our church is a very large and well-established Charismatic Church. I’m at the hospital in the children’s ward with mask on, and gloves cause I can’t go in without it and we’re talking about that with two parents of a 3 year old. Look, Luther – speaking of Luther – wrote about the freedom of the will. Sproul, along with Richard Phillips and Steven Lawson, unfolds the riches of God's rule over creation. PHIL: Alright, another text and let me preface this by saying, there are people who would say, “Okay, well God is sovereign to a point, but He doesn’t control random happenings. in all its fullness to as many people as possible. PHIL: Now, is this one of those issues that’s clear in Scripture or somewhat mysterious? Whatever happens, it accords with the counsel of God’s will. The attributes of God are things we can know about God. 11:36). And doulos means slave and kurios means Lord. He – He never calls down judgment on the system, never. You know, your grandma died, your marriage is failing, you lost your job, “Well buck up, God is sovereign, all things work together.” How do we – how do we affirm these truths to someone who is suffering without maybe being too flippant about it? Sovereign was a designation of the person who reigned, the – the single ruler, the king, the monolithic power, the unilateral authority and that is essentially what to say God is sovereign means, that He is the sole ruler, He is the sole authority. The sovereignty of God can bring with it a lot of questions and/or baggage depending upon your religious context. Now all of this is a bit misleading as an introduction to Romans 9. JOHN: In other words, there’s not any competition for who’s in charge. Scripture says that. God’s will is a little more complex. And if there’s no evil in the world, there’s no way, on the other hand, the positive side, there’s no way to display your grace, your mercy, your compassion, your kindness, your tenderness and yet those are attributes of God. I’m working on a book about this, so there’s hundreds of places I could have gone. One of the – one of the areas where I think a lot of people seem to struggle with that is human government. Election is therefore a gracious (and not just a sovereign) act. “Hello, Pastor John! Proverbs 16:33, and you can explain this one for us. PHIL: Yeah. Nothing catches God off guard. How that harmonizes with the sovereignty of God in saving some is – is beyond my comprehension. QUESTION: Sovereignty of God Definition - What is it? “My husband and I have been through trials we never thought we’d go through. God still uses the means of those who believe in Him to be the agents by which He brings His elective purpose to pass. Most people, many Christians think that the whole plan of redemption is really for them. But God distances Himself from evil, God who cannot lie, God who is holy, holy, holy. I don’t think it’s a question of revelation, I think it’s a question of comprehension. Are there realms in the created universe where God does not govern? God’s foreknowledge or determinate counsel … Healing is listed as a blessing (Deut. From its opening verse, the Bible asserts in no uncertain terms that God is and that God reigns. It all fits in to His purpose. Rather, this truth is the very bedrock doctrine of all Scripture. Evil is a matter of ontology (being). You know, he goes to his friends, they give him really stupid advice and bad counsel and bad theology, and he doesn’t know where to turn. We were so burdened by the fact that Satan might come in the house and kill your baby, you know, cause your baby to be smothered. So I think, for me, no one understood the sovereignty of God better than the Lord Jesus did. A couple of days later I’m in a cancer bed and a 33-year-old mother – by the way, this lady came to our church at the age of 15, came to Christ, grew in Christ, met a man, married him, they had four children. “He cannot deny himself,” for example (2 Tim. JOHN: He makes the wrath of men to praise Him. What was the purpose for which God allowed evil? Moreover, Christian counseling has failed to measure up to its name principally because its early theorists were unskilled in exegesis and theology. Answer: When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of salvation. The first thing out of her mouth – she’s got tubes and wires and it’s horrendous – she says, “Oh, John, how’s your knee?” She’s asking me how my knee – and we began to talk, and there’s literally joy in her heart because as horrible as it is, young wife, young mother, four children about to be motherless and she’s going through the ravages of this cancer. God is sovereign over both life and death. Was Herod in power at the time of Jesus? One’s writing on the freedom of the will, the other is writing on the bondage of the will. The choice is part of His sovereign nature. – Dr. Norman Geisler 1 "The word means principal, chief, supreme. But at the same time, Phil, and I think this is so important, this is where you – you find some solid footing in a very difficult quicksand when you realize that you go back to human responsibility. you find yourself in trouble. God’s sovereignty casts no shadow over the prayer of adoration. But look, if the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, if – if God planned the death of Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world, before anything was ever made that was made, then He must have planned for sinners to be redeemed, which meant that He must have put into the plan the allowance for sinners to fall. And they said this, I’ll never forget it, “We could not live any longer under the sovereignty of Satan.”, JOHN: Yeah, I’d never heard that. This is that familiar passage where James writes and sort of rebukes people for saying, “Today or tomorrow, I’m going to go such-and-such a place and so such-a-such a thing.” And he says in James 4:15, “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or do that.’” Isn’t James expressly affirming the sovereignty of God? And I think the New Testament would even call us to – to that kind of love toward one another, to that kind of compassion, to that kind of ministry to the suffering and the weak and all of those kinds of things. In other words, God’s sovereignty allows Him to not act—to allow—just as much as it allows Him to act. Oh really? God says, “Why will you die?” You know, Jesus says, “Search the scriptures, they are they that speak of Me.”. Nothing is by chance. JOHN: No, nothing. God is displaying Himself to the holy angels, God is displaying Himself to – to the saints in His full glory. Many are ready to concede that God is sovereign over the … The amazing reality when you think about the sovereignty of God is how God takes all of those acts of freedom and those infinite contingencies and controls them all to the ultimate end which He has predetermined. I mean. JOHN: Right. All rights reserved. You’re bound to sin, you can do nothing but sin. That’s illegitimate because, you know, we’re wasting our time. That is a central assertion of Christian belief and especially in Reformed theology. PHIL: Yeah, the other thing that underlines then is that God’s purpose is ultimately good. And it’s in that context that – that we’re told that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. 3. God is the "sovereign Lord of all by an incontestable right [as the] creator . We talk about the providence of God. In God’s design, human responsibility is clearly not eliminated by God’s sovereign control over His creation. The first lesson of day one, we had to learn the definition of the decree of God, that the decree of God is His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His own will whereby for His own glory He has unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Does the sovereignty of God allow for chance, coincidence, or cause and effect to take place in our lives? Since His written revelation teaches concepts that appear to be mutually exclusive, we must realize that with God both truths are friends, not enemies. JOHN: “You meant it for evil, and God meant it for good.”. He – and I always say He banished illness from Israel for the duration of His ministry, and He delivered people from demon possession. Reformed thought on this issue is summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith: God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain what-soever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the crea-tures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. I understand miracles. That’s simply saying that government as a reality, as a social reality is ordained by God for the wellbeing of man. PHIL: Yeah, now it still raises questions that are very difficult. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. Strong, strong language. PHIL: Let me kind of shift gears here. Evil does not deter God. Think of it this way. The question of our heavenly Father’s sovereignty is actually the question of whether he’s God or not. 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